An Embarrassment To The Game

Anyone with any sort of knowledge or hockey – or basic human nature – could have guessed that there would be fights during last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders.  During the previous game between the two teams both Rick DiPietro and Blake Comeau were injured, so you knew the Islanders would be looking for revenge.

You probably didn’t expect the two teams to step into a time machine and end up in the 1970s.

But that’s exactly what happened.  From sucker punches, to a player challenging a goaltender to a fight, to another player leaving the bench to join a fight, to taunting and cheapshots after hits, to flying elbows and more, this game had everything that the NHL has been trying to take out of the sport for years.

Almost everyone likes hockey fights.  98% of players in the recent NHL players poll said that fighting should stay in the game.  But there’s a different between fighting and insane brawling.  There’s nothing wrong with two players who want to fight one another dropping the gloves.  But that’s not what we saw last night for the most part.

Max Talbot and Brent Johnson of the Penguins were clearly targeted by the Islanders yesterday.  Talbot hit Blake Comeau relatively cleanly on February 2nd, however Comeau was unfortunately concussed on the play.   Matt Martin of the Islanders tried to exact some revenge against Talbot by attempting to throw a sucker punch at his head during the second period.  We don’t want to be accused of hyperbole here, but it had a Tood Bertuzzi/Steve Moore feel to it.  Martin didn’t really connect with the punch however.

Brent Johnson knocked out Rick DiPietro during a fight last game.  DiPietro is currently out of the line-up with facial injuries.  Again looking for revenge, Michael Haley of the Islanders challenged Johnson to a fight during the third period of the game.  Skaters fighting goaltenders simply does not happen very often in this league.  A goaltender, covered in bulky equipment, is always at a disadvantage when fighting a skater.

But it got worse.  The Penguins Eric Godard left the bench to attack Haley as he tried to fight Johnson.  Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has been fined and suspended for Godard leaving the bench.  It’s suspected that Godard will receive a 10 game suspension.

Most of the fights last night happened after the game was already out of hand.  The Islanders were already way ahead on the scoreboard.

Again, you had to assume the Islanders would be looking for some sort of revenge.

Usually, before games where it seems like there will be violence, the league will issue a statement that they are watching the game closely.  Senior officials will usually be called in and Colin Campbell will sometimes attend the game.  That’s what happened last season in the first game between the Penguins and Bruins after the Cooke-Savard hit.  Why didn’t it happen last night?

Before that Bruins/Penguins game Campbell said “anytime we have things like this, we do some things to ensure that hopefully things don’t get out of hand, and they do what they have to do and keep things civil.”

That clearly didn’t happen yesterday.  The officials couldn’t keep control of the game.

The game received very little mention on NHL.com today, which could indicate that the the league is embarrassed by what happened last night.  However, the official NHL.com game recap starts off with “the New York Islanders exacted the NHL’s version of revenge on the Pittsburgh Penguins.”  Does that mean the NHL condones this kind of violence?  Or that they celebrate it?  That runs contrary to everything else they’ve ever said about “revenge” during games.

Fighting in hockey is fine.  Even “old time hockey” is fine.  Intending to injure players in ridiculous brawls is not.  As Puck Daddy said, “there’s old time hockey, and then there’s a prison riot.”

There were 14 fighting majors, 21 misconducts and 346 penalty minutes in the game.

We’ll see what kind of additional discipline comes out of this soon.  There will likely be a lot.

The teams meet again on April 8th.

Comments (24)

  1. Agreed.

    And while the Penguins aren’t exactly saints, there’s no doubt that the Islanders came into this game looking for blood. I hope there are some consequences for that organization.

  2. Also not mentioned was that Talbot contacted Comeau the next day to apologize and hope he gets better.

    Konopka’s comments pregame should be fine worthy as well. This team went into the game wanting to injure and the comments made by them both pre and post game prove that. Calling this game “entertaining” and saying “that’s hockey” is a disgrace to this sport.

    Gillies needs to be out of this league. Hits Tangradi with the elbow and precedes to punch him in the back of the head while on the ground. Then footage pops up to show a 35 year old husband and father taunting a 22 year old top rookie who is noticeably injured.

    Haley is a goon that was brought up to fight, that’s all.

    What comes out of this isn’t the score but the cheap shots made by the Islander players. Pens were protecting themselves and anyone who defends Gilles and Martin need to reevaluate themselves.

  3. disagree. keep the fights coming. real fans want it as much as the players. no one turns off a game or highlights when a fight occurs. when a game is a huge fight fest like lastnight, or the bos/mtl game, or the bos/dal game not only does everyone rush home to watch the highlights, tons and tons of ppl go online to check the videos out. huge promotion for the game. no publicity is bad publicity, especially with the hacks running the league right now. well done isles.

  4. Pens are more than willing to defend themselves by fighting but last night Isles just went straight for the sucker punch or the cheap shots. Ask a Pen to go and you go it.

  5. [...] are the only teams in the league to have three 20-goal scorers.Seriously?Yeah. Friday night’s Pittsburgh Penguins-Islanders brawl-fest allowed Michael Grabner, John Tavares and Matt Moulson to each net their 20th goals of the [...]

  6. I love seeing fights but when it becomes a farce like last night it doesn’t look good for the league. Half the guys on the islanders shouldn’t even be in the league, it really looked like a prison riot.

  7. …there might be a connection between the Islanders lack of control and their lack of a decent captain.

  8. Any team with Cooke in the lineup, better be prepared to defend itself every night. The only embarassesment(s) that come to light was that Boston didn’t extract a similar revenge after Savard’s career was basically ended. Further, the league should be embarassed for condoing Cooke’s hit on Savard. The message the NHL sent was loud and clear: 1) players of Cooke’s caliber are more important to the NHL than the Savard(s) and Crosby(s), 2) violence, cheap shots, dirt sells. This is the modern NHL.

  9. Talbot hit Comeau relatively cleanly? In what universe? Haley challenged Johnson to a fight? LOL – Please Johnson was begging to fight. Your recounting of events needs to bear some resemblance to reality for your criticism to be taken seriously.

  10. I disagree fights are good for the game best fight ever Potvin vs Hextal people go to nascar for a chance to see a crash and to see a hockey fight is exciting and the holy grail of fights is goalie fights its part of the game and if parents dont want thiere kids to fight in sport’s then dont sign the permission slip

  11. Fights may be fine but that attempted punch to Max Talbot was so far over the line that I’m amazed people are coming over here to defend the Islanders.

    What happened to Talbot and Tangradi was not hockey, no matter how it’s sugar-coated.

  12. Martin barely touched Talbot. He was trying to start a fight with him and Talbot just dropped down and covered up. I’m not sure why Gillies was so angry at Tangradi. I can’t defend that but the hit along the boards wasn’t all that bad. It was a charge and a 2 minute minor. Then he wanted to fight him – not sure why – maybe Tangradi did something to someone. It seemed like Gillies was going after him for some reason. If it wasn’t to get even for something earlier in the game I can’t defend it.

  13. @Taylor Sanders—All these Islander fans keep screaming that the Talbot hit was illegal. Please reason, using the actual rules, how this was so. He didn’t leave his skates and there was no head shot involved. He hit Comeau in the body which last time I checked was a legal play. It’s odd that the Isles and their fans are telling the Pens and their fans to stop whining and yet the Isles couldn’t handle a clean check and a clean fight in which both combatants decided to be involved. I didn’t like to hear that Comeau was concussed but this is a contact sport. Sometimes players are going to be seriously hurt even in a legal play. (Funny how you forgot he bought a game misconduct on Letang earlier this season also on a clean hit.) You don’t hear the Pens wanting to incite a riot the next time they play the Sabres because Tyler Myers fell on Malkin’s leg and ruined his season. It was unfortunate but it happened. There is no excuse for the disgusting display that went on last night. Do you even care that Tangradi had nothing to do with any of this and yet he was seriously injured in one of the worst cheap shots I have seen in the 20 years I’ve been watching hockey? Does it make you feel great that as he was stunned by the initial elbow that he was brought down by a series of punches and was not able to defend himself? I was physically ill when I saw that. I don’t cheer when another player on another team is injured. They are a real person with family that is watching. And I’m sick of hearing how any team with Matt Cooke on it deserves this. So he’s the only player in the league that crosses the line? I hope he takes his suspension and comes back and plays a gritty but clean game. No team desrves this.

  14. It was way late. That’s how.

  15. Like I said I don’t know why Gillies was so angry at Tangradi. He’s the left wing so he obviously came over to that side of the ice to go after him. Maybe he was just caught up in the insanity of the game. Unless Tangradi did something earlier in the game there is no excuse for what Gillies did. But that is the only part I agree with. Talbot’s hit on Comeau was almost a full second after Comeau had gotten rid of the puck, it was behind the play at that point and Comeau’s back was to Talbot. A filthy hit without question.
    And again Martin barely touched Talbot and Johnson was itching to fight Haley.

  16. He just got rid of the puck, he’s still fair game. And I’m still wondering how you can cry wolf on the Talbot hit but the assault on Tangradi was worthy of a 2 minute minor? Come on, I defend my players as well but I know when they’re wrong. I was at the game versus Columbus and immediately said Cooke would get a 5 minute major and should be suspended. It was a stupid hit. If you can’t fairly assess your own players please don’t embarrass yourself by commenting on others. I can’t take anything you say seriously. That’s disgusting that you condone the assault that took place against Tangradi and Talbot.

  17. Wow! One whole second to change his course of action. That’s really a late hit. And as far as Martin goes, he showed intent to injure an unsuspecting player even if he didn’t connect with a punch. I have no problem with an Islander trying to ask Talbot to fight even for a clean hit but a sucker punch is out of line. Last Sunday Rupp tried to engage Steckel in a fight for the Crosby hit but Steckel declined. You didn’t see any Penguin player try to sucker punch Steckel.

  18. Taylor Sanders you say that maybe Tangradi did something earlier in the game?? So that warrants an attempt to injure?

    Someone else said on here that Johnson issued the challenge??? Not sure which game you were watching, but typically when big fights break out goalies will skate around a little, try and get a glimpse. Haley is just a hired thug called up from the minors. I am glad Goddard came off the bench and stuck up for Johnson!!! Islanders fans are pissed off. Why ? Cause their “franchise” goaltender is made of glass, and gets inured everytime he sneezes?!

  19. All this reply, comments for a disgraceful game, because it was a disgrace…but i’m still a bit shakin that it wasnt the same for the Bruins-Habs game. At the end of the game it was clearly what Claude Julien wanted by sending the 3 douche for the last shift.

    So habs Hamrlik, Spacek and Pyatt got there bell ring a couple of time by tough guys who are there to fight while the 3 of them had about 3 carreer fightr altogether.

    The same Bloggers here called it a tough and ok game on the account that it was because of the Rivalry…even so, it was disgraceful to watch and the league should have look into it…

  20. A full second is a long time in hockey. Comeua had just chipped the puck up the boards and out of the zone and was just gliding for A FULL SECOND, which, YES, is a long time in hockey, plenty of time to change your mind. It was a late hit. You want to argue about whether it was technically illegal? I don’t know the specifics of that rule. Obviously everyone touches the puck at sometime so the right to hit the player must expire at some time. Regardless of whether it was technically illegal it was a filthy hit as anyone employing common sense can plainly see.

  21. [...] blasts NHL on discipline Posted by Scott Lewis under General on Feb 13, 2011 Friday night’s riot-like behaviour between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins resulted in suspensions for Trevor Gillies (nine games), Matt Martin (four games), and Eric Godard [...]

  22. I find it hard to believe that the Pitt organization wasn’t fined at all. 9 games for Gillies seems a bit much based on what he actually did compared to previous similar acts in the league this year.

  23. [...] minutes after his public statement on the discipline handed out after the nightmare at Nassau. A fight-filled affair between the Penguins and Islanders that mercifully ended with 14 fighting majors, 21 misconducts, [...]

  24. [...] Gillies didn’t last long after returning from a nine game suspension for his role in the Penguins/Islanders embarrassment of fists last month. Gillies was handed a ten game suspension following an in person disciplinary hearing on [...]

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